Unpopular Japan PM seeks party unity amid calls to quit

Reuters News
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Posted: May 28, 2011 5:48 AM
Unpopular Japan PM seeks party unity amid calls to quit

By Yoko Kubota

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on Saturday for his fractious ruling party to unite as he faces growing pressure to quit, both from rebels within his party and feisty opposition critical of his handling of a nuclear crisis.

Opposition parties in Japan's divided parliament are threatening to submit a no-confidence motion against Kan, who took power last June, and Kan's rival in the ruling Democratic Party Ichiro Ozawa has said he may back this.

"Each will make decisions based on the situation that Japan is now under, internationally and domestically, and I believe the party can act as one," Kan told reporters in Brussels on the sidelines of a meeting with European Union leaders.

Kan could join the flock of Japan's short-lived premiers, as the world's third biggest economy struggles with public debt twice the size of its $5 trillion economy.

If a no-confidence motion is passed in parliament's lower house, Kan must call a snap election for the lower house or he and his cabinet must resign.

Analysts have questioned whether the motion would get the backing it needs. About 75 of more than 300 DPJ lower house members would need to defect for the motion to pass in the powerful chamber, and it is unclear who could succeed Kan.

Kan added that if possible, he wants to meet Ozawa, a former DPJ leader known for shaking things up, but who was indicted this year over an alleged violation of campaign funding laws.

With a weak grip on his party, Kan faces a tough time even if he survives the no-confidence motion, including how to fund reconstruction of the disaster, which led to damage of as much as $300 billion.

He must also win help from opposition parties, who can block bills in the upper house, over a bill that would allow the government to issue bonds needed to fund 44 percent of a record $1 trillion budget for the year from April.

"I want to sincerely consult them (opposition parties)," he said, without elaborating on details.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Jon Hemming)